May 27, 2018

In for the long haul

Williston company at the forefront of fiber-optics

Feb. 23, 2012

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Greg Kelly (above) is president of the Williston-based TelJet Longhaul LLC, a fiber-optics company that offers high-speed data services to many of Vermont’s largest businesses. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

With a full-time staff of 10, TelJet Longhaul LLC can hardly be considered a big business.

But with a client base that includes the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, the Williston-based TelJet, founded in 2002, thinks big.

“Anybody’s who’s big is our customer,” said TelJet President Greg Kelly. “We probably have the highest revenue per employee of any company in the state.”

TelJet is a fiber-optics company that offers data transmission speeds through fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks. Unlike DSL (digital subscriber line) services that transmit data electrically through copper wires, FTTP is a photonic technology.

“A signal over copper is an electrical signal, and it can only travel, say, five miles before it has to be repeated,” explained Kelly. “Over fiber, it’s actually light – it’s photonic – and it can travel about 50 miles before it needs to be repeated. Over copper, the most you can transmit is 45 megabits. Today, we are capable of doing 4,000 megabits over a single fiber.”

Although FTTP technologies have hit the open market via Verizon Communications’ “FiOS” branded Internet service – touted as providing faster data speeds than AT&T Inc.’s fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) technology, which uses a coaxial infrastructure to deliver home-based service from a centralized fiber-connected node – TelJet offers faster data speeds than either of the former “Baby Bells.”

“Verizon is using a technology that is called PON (passive optical network), so the speed is limited by that type of electronics,” Kelly said. “We don’t do PON, because PON was designed for more of a residential one-fits-all. … (PON) works great in residential environments, because (basic Internet users) don’t need these kinds of speeds (that TelJet provides).”

In layman’s terms, the fiber-optic connections TelJet offers businesses can be thought of as data-based “hotlines,” comparable to the Moscow-Washington “red telephone” that linked the White House to the Kremlin during the Cold War, or its contemporaneous spoof – the “Batphone” that linked Commissioner Gordon’s office to Bruce Wayne’s study in the original “Batman” television series.

Rather than companies having to rely on the limitations and fickleness of the Internet to interact with business partners, TelJet instead gives them a dedicated fiber network to share data.

The TelJet-owned fiber network forms a rough circle – bisected by Williston – that encompasses the metropolitan hubs of New York City, Boston and Montreal. When clients’ data needs spread outside the Northeast – such as the Williston-based digital media company Subatomic Digital Inc., which routinely sends massive chunks of data to clients in Los Angeles and San Francisco – TelJet partners with other fiber-optics companies to ensure seamless connectivity.

“Is the other end on someone’s fiber network?” Kelly asks prospective clients.

If the answer is yes, they’re in business.

Kelly, 54, was born in Guam to American parents. A resident of South Hero, he formerly served as the chief information officer for Oxygen Media, just prior to the launch of the Oxygen cable television network.

He also holds the patent for a technology that can connect a viewer of specific television content to a related Web site via remote control. The invention would have the effect of blurring the distinction between TV and the Internet – which Kelly maintains is the reason he was never able to market it.

“Say you have Comcast,” Kelly offered, “and you have Internet and TV from the same provider that’s coming through the same box. It’s possible to shift between TV and the Web; the issue is the TV broadcasters don’t want that to happen, and so the cable companies – who need the content – are saying, ‘OK, we won’t do this,’ but technically it’s possible.”

Kelly considers invention a form of relaxation; in his free time away from the office he invented a more durable cover for Adirondack guideboats and a device for rolling a sail on a small sailboat.

In a sense, Kelly’s career has been a form of invention. A college dropout, he created his own path in the business world by anticipating market trends and identifying development opportunities.

“The old adage is find a need and fill it,” said Kelly. “We just keep working to fulfill the needs of our customers, and the fun part is trying to anticipate (those needs). … We love to build things.”

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